This paper introduces a special issue of Cognitive Science initiated on the 25th anniversary of the publication of Parallel Distributed Processing (PDP), a two-volume work that introduced the use of neural network models as vehicles for understanding cognition. The collection surveys the core commitments of the PDP framework, the key issues the framework has addressed, and the debates the framework has spawned, and presents viewpoints on the current status of these issues. The articles focus on both historical roots and contemporary (...) developments in learning, optimality theory, perception, memory, language, conceptual knowledge, cognitive control, and consciousness. Here we consider the approach more generally, reviewing the original motivations, the resulting framework, and the central tenets of the underlying theory. We then evaluate the impact of PDP both on the field at large and within specific subdomains of cognitive science and consider the current role of PDP models within the broader landscape of contemporary theoretical frameworks in cognitive science. Looking to the future, we consider the implications for cognitive science of the recent success of machine learning systems called “deep networks”—systems that build on key ideas presented in the PDP volumes. (shrink)
In a seminal 1977 article, Rumelhart argued that perception required the simultaneous use of multiple sources of information, allowing perceivers to optimally interpret sensory information at many levels of representation in real time as information arrives. Building on Rumelhart's arguments, we present the Interactive Activation hypothesis—the idea that the mechanism used in perception and comprehension to achieve these feats exploits an interactive activation process implemented through the bidirectional propagation of activation among simple processing units. We then examine the interactive activation (...) model of letter and word perception and the TRACE model of speech perception, as early attempts to explore this hypothesis, and review the experimental evidence relevant to their assumptions and predictions. We consider how well these models address the computational challenge posed by the problem of perception, and we consider how consistent they are with evidence from behavioral experiments. We examine empirical and theoretical controversies surrounding the idea of interactive processing, including a controversy that swirls around the relationship between interactive computation and optimal Bayesian inference. Some of the implementation details of early versions of interactive activation models caused deviation from optimality and from aspects of human performance data. More recent versions of these models, however, overcome these deficiencies. Among these is a model called the multinomial interactive activation model, which explicitly links interactive activation and Bayesian computations. We also review evidence from neurophysiological and neuroimaging studies supporting the view that interactive processing is a characteristic of the perceptual processing machinery in the brain. In sum, we argue that a computational analysis, as well as behavioral and neuroscience evidence, all support the Interactive Activation hypothesis. The evidence suggests that contemporary versions of models based on the idea of interactive activation continue to provide a basis for efforts to achieve a fuller understanding of the process of perception. (shrink)
The study of human intelligence was once dominated by symbolic approaches, but over the last 30 years an alternative approach has arisen. Symbols and processes that operate on them are often seen today as approximate characterizations of the emergent consequences of sub- or nonsymbolic processes, and a wide range of constructs in cognitive science can be understood as emergents. These include representational constructs (units, structures, rules), architectural constructs (central executive, declarative memory), and developmental processes and outcomes (stages, sensitive periods, neurocognitive (...) modules, developmental disorders). The greatest achievements of human cognition may be largely emergent phenomena. It remains a challenge for the future to learn more about how these greatest achievements arise and to emulate them in artificial systems. (shrink)
In this prcis we focus on phenomena central to the reaction against similarity-based theories that arose in the 1980s and that subsequently motivated the approach to semantic knowledge. Specifically, we consider (1) how concepts differentiate in early development, (2) why some groupings of items seem to form or coherent categories while others do not, (3) why different properties seem central or important to different concepts, (4) why children and adults sometimes attest to beliefs that seem to contradict their direct experience, (...) (5) how concepts reorganize between the ages of 4 and 10, and (6) the relationship between causal knowledge and semantic knowledge. The explanations our theory offers for these phenomena are illustrated with reference to a simple feed-forward connectionist model. The relationships between this simple model, the broader theory, and more general issues in cognitive science are discussed. (shrink)
The commentaries reflect three core themes that pertain not just to our theory, but to the enterprise of connectionist modeling more generally. The first concerns the relationship between a cognitive theory and an implemented computer model. Specifically, how does one determine, when a model departs from the theory it exemplifies, whether the departure is a useful simplification or a critical flaw? We argue that the answer to this question depends partially upon the model's intended function, and we suggest that connectionist (...) models have important functions beyond the commonly accepted goals of fitting data and making predictions. The second theme concerns perceived in-principle limitations of the connectionist approach to cognition, and the specific concerns these perceived limitations raise for our theory. We argue that the approach is not in fact limited in the ways our critics suggest. One common misconception, that connectionist models cannot address abstract or relational structure, is corrected through new simulations showing directly that such structure can be captured. The third theme concerns the relationship between parallel distributed processing (PDP) models and structured probabilistic approaches. In this case we argue that there the difference between the approaches is not merely one of levels. Our PDP approach differs from structured statistical approaches at all of Marr's levels, including the characterization of the goals of cognitive computations, and of the representations and algorithms used. (shrink)
Page's proposal to stipulate representations in which individual units correspond to meaningful entities is too unconstrained to support effective theorizing. An approach combining general computational principles with domain-specific assumptions, in which learning is used to discover representations that are effective in solving tasks, provides more insight into why cognitive and neural systems are organized the way they are.
We share with Anderson & Lebiere (A&L) (and with Newell before them) the goal of developing a domain-general framework for modeling cognition, and we take seriously the issue of evaluation criteria. We advocate a more focused approach than the one reflected in Newell's criteria, based on analysis of failures as well as successes of models brought into close contact with experimental data. A&L attribute the shortcomings of our parallel-distributed processing framework to a failure to acknowledge a symbolic level of thought. (...) Our framework does acknowledge a symbolic level, contrary to their claim. What we deny is that the symbolic level is the level at which the principles of cognitive processing should be formulated. Models cast at a symbolic level are sometimes useful as high-level approximations of the underlying mechanisms of thought. The adequacy of this approximation will continue to increase as symbolic modelers continue to incorporate principles of parallel distributed processing. (shrink)